Want to know my full name, address, phone number, relatives, age and date of birth, and my entire address history? If you have a few dollars and know a few of these details about my life, you could find out all of this — and so much more.
But don’t go searching Google just yet. With websites like Spokeo, ZabaSearch, and Radaris, any one of your friends who knows anything about you can do the same, potentially gaining access to and control of your social security number. Scared? You should be. Identity theft is a huge problem. The FTC estimates that as many as nine million Americans have their identities stolen each year. As people’s records expand and monitoring services create more databases of personal information, the risk to your identity increases. While your information is collected without your permission, there is something you can do about it.
MelonCard, which is part of the newest batch of 500 Startups, helps you, as a consumer, protect your personal information by surfacing profiles that include your information and enabling you to quickly ask these databases to delete your profiles with one click of a button. The information in these profiles can include things like your name and address, as well as your phone number, date of birth, and even your social security number. With the right combination of this information, anyone else can gain access to the rest of this information and successfully steal your identity — which includes compromising your financial information. If you ever thought losing your wallet was bad, consider losing control of your social security number — and not being able to prove that it was ever yours to begin with. MelonCard was actually inspired when the father of one of the founders of the startup had his identity stolen.
After you confirm who you are with MelonCard (there are probably dozens of people who have the same name as you), you can choose from among dozens of record and monitoring services to remove your listings. Some of these services carry a low risk, such as Archives, which serves as a place to track your family history. Other services, like ZabaSearch, carry a high risk, as premium users of that service can search for records by social security number. This feature can obviously lead to identity theft if your information were to get into the hands of the wrong person.
MelonCard offers the ability for you to remove information from eight of the worst information brokers on the Web for free. It also allows you to remove your records from nine additional information brokers with a $7/month membership that will guarantee such listings will be permanently removed. The membership also allows you to remove every listing that MelonCard finds of you in other databases, and it also ensures your data doesn’t resurface in these databases. With the membership, MelonCard will also alert you if any new information about you pops up.
MelonCard makes it incredibly easy to contact these people record services for removal without going through their individual processes. Unfortunately, these directories are designed to help the “bad guys” who want to stalk or steal information from you (and you’re probably a “good guy,” right?). Upon requesting removal from Epsilon, I was told it could take two to three months. Radaris told me that information contained on its website was sourced from at least 15 other sites — not all of which are included in MelonCard. And requesting removal from Spoke generated a customer service request. Only Archives indicated that the removal would be completely automatic.
Is the process fast and easy? No. Is it going to free you from any and all privacy concerns you ever have? No. But gaining control of your privacy on these people record and monitoring sites could make or break the difference from you completely losing control of your privacy. In a recent post on MelonCard’s blog, Geoff highlighted that one database highlighted all of the following information about users it profiled:
- Highest Known Level of Education
- Children in Household
- Estimated Household Income
- Marital Status
- Home Owner Status
- Estimated Length of Residence
- Estimated Home Value
- Home Property Type
- Cars in Household
- Vehicle New/Used
- Vehicle Type
- Likely Smartphone User
- Have Credit Card
- Have Premium Credit Card
- Have Retail Card
- Invested Assets
- Likely to use Financial Services
- Estimated Loan to Value Ratio
- Politically Active
- Political Views
- Absentee Voter
- Likely Political Contributor
- Likely Contributor to Charity
- Likely Political Contributor to Democrats
- Likely Political Contributor to Republicans
- Likely Second Amendment Supporter
Even Facebook doesn’t know this much about you (at least, you hope not). We all put a lot of information out on the Internet, but MelonCard is making it easier for us to prevent others from using that information, as a whole, to harm us.
Try out MelonCard for free, or if you really value your privacy, consider the $7/month for the membership. Do you think it will help prevent identity theft and protect your privacy? Let us know in the comments.